Forbes Story: Murder At The Gucci – Forbes France

The decisive phone call arrived late in the evening of January 8, 1997. An anonymous call was made to Filippo Ninni, the Italian police chief for the Lombardia region, to arrange an appointment. Anonymous won't reveal anything more on the phone : ”I would say only one word: Gucci. "

Filippo Ninni was one of the main detectives in charge of the affair, which seemed destined to become another great unsolved mystery for the Italian police: The assassination of Maurizio Gucci, heir and the late Director of the renowned fashion house.

Two years earlier, on March 27, 1995, Gucci had been shot dead at the entrance to the building where he worked on Palestro 20 avenue in Milan by an unknown gunman; close to the fashion district. Several theories have emerged: Was Gucci involved in unclear business? Was there an argument within the family, known for its fierce internal affairs? Theories, which have come to nothing.

When he met Ninni, the informant introduced himself and explained that he was staying in a small hotel where he had heard the guard boast of hosting the Gucci assassin. This revelation unleashed the chronicle around a story of murder staging, not without a hint of cliché at the Soap Opera: the ex-wife of Gucci, Patrizia Reggiani. (Our interview requests from Forbes for Reggiani remained unanswered.)

Suspicion of a role in the murder would tarnish the reputation of Elizabeth Taylor's lookalike in Italy and the fashion world. Her notoriety that remains, nicknamed “Lady Gucci” by the press, she was to be played by Lady Gaga in a film about the murder directed by Ridley Scott. The rumor of this cinematographic event first appeared some twenty years ago, the project was then associated with Martin Scorcese. A true fairytale story that ends so macabre enough to spark Hollywood's imagination.

"Hell is at your door"

Reggiani and Gucci were both in their twenties when they first met at a social event in Milan. The grandson of the founding house Gucci would then have been struck by the beauty of Reggiani and asked a friend: "Who is this beautiful girl who looks like Elizabeth Taylor?"

They married in 1972 despite the opposition of his father Rodolfo, and they were, as an Italian song said at that time, the most beautiful couple in the world. Happiness lasted just over ten years. They separated in 1985, but the divorce continued for almost ten more years in a long legal battle.

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Reggiani and Gucci happy (from left to right: Maurizio Gucci, Allegra Gucci, Alessandra Gucci and Patrizia Reggiani)

In an interview for the show of Storie Maledette, Reggiani explains that Gucci left him to go on a business trip. And never came back. She learned that he had left him from her family doctor.

On another show, Harem, she says that Rodolfo's death in 1983 was a turning point in their relationship. She explains that her father's death had changed her husband. That he was starting to behave as if nothing and no one mattered anymore. She complains in Storie Maledette that, in 1992, when she came out of surgery for a brain tumor, Gucci had not supported her.

But Gucci spent most of his time in the family business, where he started working at the age of 15, in the warehouse.

He inherited a 50% share after the death of his father, became President of the company and began to consolidate his hold. Gucci found himself involved in a number of justice cases, the purpose of which was to kick his family members out of the Board of Directors, and their share of the business ended up being bought by investors Bahrain, Investcorp's banking business for the sum of $ 135 million.

In 1993 Gucci sold his shares in the fashion house of Investcorp for between $ 150 and $ 200 million, making him a wealthy man. (Gucci is now part of the Kering group’s luxury brand portfolio) At around the same time, Reggiani is receiving almost $ 1 million a year in child support.

But Reggiani was far from satisfied. He didn't like the way Gucci had run the company's business, as she said in an interview at the time: "He told me recently," Do you know why our marriage didn't work? Because you imagined yourself a boss and here there is only one boss. "

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Patrizia Reggiani at the funeral of her ex-husband Maurizio Gucci with her two daughters.

Besides Gucci had found a new younger partner, Paola Franchi, and the rumor of a new marriage did not help matters.

The extent of Reggiani's resentment was revealed during a final court visit, via a recorded voice message left by Reggiani for Gucci. “You are on the verge of being despised by your daughters who no longer want to see you. You are a misshapen outgrowth, you are a painful appendage that we all want to forget, "you could hear Reggiani's vehement voice saying," Hell is at your door. "

“A moment of weakness”

Reggiani's bitterness towards her ex-husband was known, as well as the fact that she was looking for a hired man to assassinate him. She had twice asked her cleaner for help and even consulted a lawyer about what might have happened if she got rid of her ex-husband. She had confessed to it in court and in several interviews.

She said in Storie Maledette: "I have to admit that for a while I really wanted to get rid of him. I wanted to do it so I went around my acquaintances to hire them. But my intentions stopped there, it was just an obsession, just a desire, "" That her wife never said, "I'm going to kill this guy?"

Nobody knew more about this obsession than Giuseppina (Pina) Auriemma, a woman described as a kind of modern witch – a role she denies having held – in the media, and who had been a confidant of Reggiani since their first meeting in 1976 in Ischia. In 1994, Pina had moved in with her to help her write a book about her relationship with Gucci; because Reggiani's memory had apparently suffered considerable damage following the surgery.

Subsequent events were the subject of virulent challenges in court, the testimony of the two women being fundamentally different on the circumstances of the murder – and their respective roles. Auriemma who was overwhelmed with debts, said that she eventually gave in to one of Reggiani's requests to find an assassin "in a moment of weakness"

Reggiani, for his part, claims not to have been aware that Auriemma had gone looking for a killer and that she was forced to pay 600 million lire (the equivalent of $ 365,000) for the murder , starting with a bond of 150 million lire.

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La Confidente de Reggiani Pina Auriemma arrested on January 31, 1997

However, they do agree that Auriemma had been in contact with Ivano Savioni, the night watchman at the hotel where she was whenever she stayed in Milan, whom she knew was in financial difficulty. She inquired about hiring a killer. Savioni then negotiated the price of Gucci's head with Orazio Cicala, who agreed to find and hire a killer.

Following the anonymous call the night of January 8, 1997, the police began to investigate Savioni. The guard had looked for a killer, but this time it was to scare Reggiani so that she would pay the rest of the agreed money, or kill her if necessary.

An undercover police officer claimed to be interested and secretly recorded their conversation. On January 31 at dawn, Reggiani, Auriemma, Savioni, Cicala and Benedetto Ceraulo – the killer accused of the murder of Gucci- were all arrested and charged. The investigation had established that Cicala had driven the Renault Clio from which Ceraulo had shot Gucci to kill him as well as injure the building keeper, Giuseppe Onorato.

Evidence against Reggiani included an extract from his diary dated March 27, 1995, the day of Gucci's murder, containing one word: “Paradeisos” the Greek word for “paradise”. Reggiani will later explain that it was a form of celebration, although she felt some kind of relief at the news of the death of her ex-husband. She declared that "Paradeisos" was a word she had written because she thought it beautiful and wanted to make it the name of her future villa.

But while the media renamed "Lady Gucci" the "Black Widow", Reggiani never confessed to having ordered the execution. Like Ceraulo, maintained his innocence. But in November 1998, Ceraulo was sentenced to life, Reggiani and Cicala both sentenced to 29 years in prison, while Auriemma and Savioni were given 25 and 26 years respectively.

Although all of these sentences were downgraded in one way or another. In November 2000, the Italian media reported that Reggiani attempted suicide the day after his transfer from San Vittore, a prison in the heart of Milan, to the Opera prison, on the outskirts of the city.

Even after careful consideration of the events that led to his incarceration, years later, Reggiani did not fully admit his guilt. She said to the Storie Maledette in 2002: “I don't think I am innocent, I think I am not guilty. But in the ‘not guilty” I have to admit that I made too many mistakes. ”

Back in Fashion

Reggiani began a work placement program in 2014, after 16 years in prison, which consisted of community service work and hours of work. This allowed Reggiani to have a part-time job at Bozart jewelry. According to the director of the company, Maurizio Manca, his post was that of stylist – matching jewelry with outfits – as well as overseeing the collection's design of the bags.

Manca explains that this post suited her perfectly since Reggiani was back in the Fashion world.

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Benedetto Ceraulo and Orazio Cicala in court for the murder of Maurizio Gucci.

“We had a pleasant relationship. We could see that it was a woman who used to give orders. ”He declares“ We have certain procedures in this business… But we clarified things from the start and after we set up a good relationship."

Reggiani worked there for three years, sometimes sharing his memories with his colleagues, “sometimes with regret, sometimes with bitterness and sometimes with nostalgia,” explains Manca, “She told stories from the time when she met the Trump or the Kennedy, what she was wearing at the time and what she would wear now. ”

Manca says they did not anticipate the backlash the company received when hiring Reggiani. They thought that no one would bring significance to events that happened twenty years ago. But Reggiani, who regained his status as a free citizen in 2017, has never been forgotten or anonymized.

Reggiani found himself in debt unable to cope with the compensation claimed by Onorato, the guardian injured by the Gucci killer, and Franchi, Gucci's partner at the time of his murder.

She also had difficulty maintaining the annual agreement from the Gucci family established during the divorce.

When his daughters – Alessandra, 42 and Allegra 38 – having inherited money from their father, refused to pay the amount of the divorce agreement to their mother, the dispute was brought to court, where the court appel found in 2017 that Reggiani was entitled to an annual pension. Following the appeal of this decision, it was brought before the Supreme Court of Italy.

According to Reggiani, his mother Silvana Barbieri, who had become the administrator of his finances, had opposed any payments to Franchi or Onorato. Barbieri died in April, and Reggiani said she would honor her payments: "I'm getting a makeover," she told the Italian TV Show in November. “I want to do what is right.”

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